Tamsin Laight of Scottburgh in Kwazulu-Natal is the latest SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba) member to earn the Independent Review (IR) licence offered only by Saiba, and she plans to use it to grow her practice into a formidable force on the south coast.
She completed the IR licence during the Covid-19 lockdown, making use of the time that would otherwise be spent visiting clients.
“I didn’t originally understand the benefit of becoming an Independent Reviewer,” says Laight. “It happened almost by default. I started getting questions from different stakeholders about the audit requirements for sectional title residential estates and body corporates. I then consulted with lawyers to see what the legal requirements were. It turns out body corporates can change their rules to allow for IRs instead of audits, which is obviously a lot cheaper for them – particularly at this time when many people are unable to pay their levies.”
The Companies Act of 2008 introduced the IR to make it less of a financial burden for smaller and start-up companies.
The key difference is the level of assurance: an audit provides “reasonable assurance”; the IR provides “limited assurance”. While audits require far greater thoroughness in the corroboration of client accounts and disclosures, as well as a larger sampling of transactions and review of internal controls, the IR standard is less rigorous in terms of sampling and cross-checking of data.
Whether an audit or an IR is required is determined by the Public Interest Score (PIS), now required by the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). For an entity scoring less than 350, an IR will suffice. You can find out more about how to calculate the PIS score here:
Suffice it to say, by far the majority of organisations in SA can get by with an IR, which is a huge opportunity for those licenced by Saiba to offer this service.
Laight offers some interesting insights into the travails of small businesses operating under lockdown in her area. Many of her clients are in the restaurant business, and are allowed under Alert Level 4 to provide takeaway services. “I am in regular contact with my clients and they tell me that the ability to offer takeaways allows them basically to cover their costs.
“Many SMEs are in a panic right now, and we are doing what we can to assist them. Those in the restaurant business were doubly hit by the lockdown – they had to close their businesses under the initial lockdown which meant no income coming in at all, and they also had to dispose of food stock which could not be sold. The ban on alcohol sales, which is where many restaurants derive a good portion of their profit, also hit them particularly hard.”
Her clients range from farmers to doctors, sole traders and some decent-sized businesses. The ability to now offer IRs opens up a whole new market along the south coast, an area famous for sectional title developments.
“There are a few hoops to jump through if a body corporate wants to change its rules to allow for IR instead of audit, but we are busy getting standardized legal contracts together that allow them to do that,” she says.
Laight grew up on Johannesburg, attended Potch Girls High, and after matric went off to Ireland in search of opportunity and wider horizons. After two years living it up in Dublin and working as a bank teller, she returned to SA in 2004 and decided to pursue a career in accounting. She completed her BComm in financial management through Unisa and opened her own accounting practice in Scottburgh, called Outfin Solutions. She then earned the CAP (SA) designation from Saiba. She is also a tax practitioner.
Like most accountants in practice, most of her attention in the last few months has been counselling her clients through what for many has been the most distressing experience of their lives, and assisting them in navigating the bureaucratic shoals for UIF and PAYE relief and faster VAT refunds.
Not many clients are taking on small business loans, as they fear the real challenge later on will be the obligation to repay these loans under business conditions that are far from certain.
Laight has three children, aged 13, 10 and 6, and is finding life under lockdown full of interesting surprises – she has to continue running her practice while home schooling the children and keeping them occupied while waiting for the schools to reopen.
She has some advice for other accountants in these trying times: “Become indispensable to your clients, stay in regular contact with them, and broaden your skills. Become an independent reviewer. There will be huge demand for IRs going forward.”
You can reach Tamsin at: firstname.lastname@example.org